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Written By Roger MarxPublished 04/25/22
With summer swiftly approaching, it’s time to check on that AC that has been dormant all winter. A little preseason maintenance can help you avoid the most common air conditioner problems, keeping you comfortably cool until the heat breaks.
A simple checklist can keep you organized. Here are our top ten air conditioner maintenance tips.
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Routine cleaning is fundamental to the maintenance of any home system or appliance. Window-unit air conditioners and the more substantial central air condensers are often exposed to the elements. Dirt, pollen, soot, twigs, leaves, insects, and other kinds of debris wind up all over the unit. If too much debris ends up inside the air conditioner, it could interfere with a mechanical component or impair the efficiency of the cooling system.
Take the time to remove twigs, leaves, and other matter. Use a damp cloth to wipe off soot and grime. Continue to do this periodically throughout the summer season.
Air conditioners have a series of thin aluminum sheets called “fins.” Gunk can accumulate within them, so the fins should be cleaned every so often. A bristle brush and some soapy water is usually all you need, but use a gentle touch. These fins are very thin and are easily bent.
As you clean, check that the fins are straight. Bent fins can impede airflow. A sturdy piece of metal can do the job, but you can also find air conditioner fin combs to manage the job.
Replacing the blower filter is one of the most important pieces of air conditioner care. The filter accumulates particulate matter over time, just as a car’s air filter does. A dirty filter interferes with airflow and facilitates the accumulation of dust and dirt on the coils themselves. This means your air conditioner must work much harder to bring your home to a comfortable temperature. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a dirty filter can increase an air conditioner’s energy consumption by up to 15%.
If you have central air, the filter is usually at the end of the return duct. Window-unit air conditioners usually have a filter that slides in and out behind the front grill.
Some filters are reusable. Simply wash with warm, soapy water and dry thoroughly before replacing. If your air conditioner uses disposable filters, you can find replacements at any hardware store. Experts recommend cleaning or replacing your filter every six months.
If you have central air, keep an eye on any insulation throughout the system. You might see foam insulation around the copper pipes that lead from the condenser into your home. If insulation appears damaged, carefully remove it and replace it with fresh material. You can find inexpensive pipe insulation in any major hardware store.
The condenser fan is another component that accumulates grime. Check that twigs or other pieces of large debris haven’t fallen between the fan’s blades. These could otherwise damage the fan when the machine turns on. Use a damp cloth to wipe the grime from the blades as well.
Your air conditioner’s evaporator or condensate drains can become clogged with algae, dirt, or other kinds of grime. This can produce an unpleasant odor when the air conditioner is in use. Clogs also prevent the unit from keeping humidity levels in check. Excess moisture from a poorly maintained air conditioner can stain or discolor your home’s walls.
Use a narrow bristle brush to clear out the drain. The location of the drain can vary depending on the make and model of the unit. Refer to your unit’s manual to determine the precise location.
An air conditioner’s evaporator and condenser coils need to be routinely cleaned, just as they do on a kitchen refrigerator. Pass a damp cloth along the coils to remove accumulated material. Too much dust and dirt make the coils less efficient, putting strain on your unit and increasing your energy bills.
Some central air maintenance is preventative. Assess the area surrounding your condenser. Prune trees or shrubs that are growing too near to the unit. Confirm that the condenser is reasonably protected from runoff that might follow a heavy storm. Check for pooling water, overgrown weeds, animal nests, and evidence of insects.
You will get more life out of your air conditioner if you don’t overwork it. Apply weather stripping to your windows or install window treatments to make your home more energy efficient. This will help you maintain a cooler indoor temperature for longer, and your air conditioner will turn on less frequently.
Some maintenance tasks, such as checking refrigerant levels and assessing electrical components, are best left to professionals. Create a schedule for annual or semiannual service inspections. A reputable technician will catch potential issues before they become serious problems that could cost you a small fortune.
Simple home maintenance goes a long way, but if you have an older air conditioner or HVAC system, it may be worth investing in a warranty or appliance insurance. Liberty Home Guard has a variety of plans to choose from, and all of them will keep you from paying steep repair costs when your unit requires professional care.
If you’re unsure of whether to invest in air conditioner insurance vs. a home warranty, consider that a home warranty is a more comprehensive plan, providing coverage for virtually any home appliance or system—air conditioning included. To learn more, call our team at (866)-902-1622. You can also use our website for a free quote.